Ex-£3.5m Sunderland, Portsmouth and Sheffield United man reveals autism diagnosis in brave interview

The former Sunderland man has revealed why he struggled to fit in at Reading following a big-money move.
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Former Sunderland man Greg Halford has bravely revealed that he has been diagnosed with autism.

Halford spent two years on Wearside having been signed for the Black Cats by Roy Keane in 2007 for a reported fee of around £2.5million to £3.5million.

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However, the defender managed just nine appearances at the Stadium of Light before joining Wolves in 2009.

Prior to his Sunderland stint, Halford made the switch to Reading from Colchester but struggled to fit in with the group and has come in for criticism from some former teammates in recent times.

Halford only managed to make three Premier League appearances for Reading before being sold to Sunderland, despite being The Royals' record signing.

"Obviously, I haven't told anyone this in the football world, but I am on the spectrum of autism so change and not knowing at that time and fitting into a new group of people," Halford told the UndrTheCosh Podcast.

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"Changing the way I lived, where I lived, to being away from my family, my girlfriend at the time - I found it very, very hard. It was hard to interact with people.

"After training, I never wanted to go into the training ground as I didn't really want to be around and I felt awkward, it was a weird sensation, so I would just go home.

"I would do my training and then go home, being on the pitch was completely different, that is my area and I can control myself there but when it is small intimate groups, I found it very difficult at that time."

Asked whether he knew he had autism at the time, Halford said: "I didn't know at the time. I only found out and got the diagnosis after I had my son when he was diagnosed as he was exactly the same as me when I was his age.

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"I always knew I was different in some kind of way, I just didn't understand what it was and so it was one of them things. Football gave me a way, because I was being put into so many new situations, that I was able to grow.

"By the time I was moving to places like Portsmouth, I had already had four or five moves and every time it was a lot easier to interact with people. I learned and grew and I could go into a new club today and be comfortable."

The 38-year-old has managed over career appearances for clubs such as Portsmouth, Cardiff City and Nottingham Forest and is now playing for Hashtag United.

Halford was part of the Cardiff City side that won promotion to the Premier League under Neil Warnock after a second-place finish in the Championship at the end of the 2017-18 season.

Halford was sold by Sunderland to Wolves in 2009 and his other former clubs include Sheffield United, Aberdeen, Birmingham City, Rotherham United and Charlton Athletic.